nuclear reactor assessment

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission has issued annual assessment letters reporting that 98 out of the nation’s 104 nuclear reactors were in the two highest performance categories as of December 31, 2010.

Nine nuclear reactors performed at the next highest level, needing to resolve one or two items of low safety significance. At this performance level, regulatory oversight includes additional inspection and attention to follow up on corrective actions. The plants were: Brunswick 1 and 2 in North Carolina, Calvert Cliffs 2 in Maryland, Farley 1 in Alabama, Ginna in New York, North Anna 2 in Virginia, Susquehanna 1 in Pennsylvania and Turkey Point 3 and 4 in Florida.

Six nuclear reactors were at the third level of performance, meaning they had one degraded safety cornerstone. Regulatory insight will include more NRC inspections, senior management attention and oversight focused on the cause of the lower performance. These plants were: Oconee 1, 2 and 3 and H.B. Robinson in South Carolina, Fort Calhoun in Nebraska and Wolf Creek 1 in Kansas.

There are five levels of plant performance based on a detailed assessment of performance indicators, such as safety system availability and reliability and unplanned shutdowns, and inspection findings. Levels range from the highest level to unacceptable performance, or the lowest level.

All nuclear plants are inspected daily by the NRC. If a plant’s performance declines, the NRC increases the level of inspection and oversight to ensure the plant operator is taking the steps necessary to correct the situation.

Each plant receives either a mid-cycle review letter or an annual assessment letter every six months, along with an NRC inspection plan. The next mid-cycle assessment letters will be issued in September 2011.

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